Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Date That Lasted 16 Hours

I want you to think back to your second date with your current spouse.

I'm sure it was a nice date. Dinner and a movie. Maybe some miniature golf. Possibly something a little less cliched, a little different. It was your second date, an important stepping stone for your relationship, right?

Now, imagine that second date lasting for 16 hours. (That's from before dawn until after dark.) Imagine that second date with so much physical exertion that you end up sweaty, filthy and stinky. And then imagine that on that second date you meet your date's parents and family. And, to top it off, imagine that on that second date there are rumors of a moose on the loose.

The Wife and I had a pretty intense second date.

Of course, there almost wasn't a second date. At the end of our first date I was still a bit flabbergasted by the fact that there is a fifteen year age difference between the two of us. 15 years is a lot of years. That's enough years for three different Summer Olympics. That's enough years for seven terms in the US Congress. That's enough years to go from kindergarten through high school, with a couple of years left over.

So, as we were finishing our first date, I didn't think there was going to be a second date. Until, that is, The Not-Yet-Wife said that her dad would be working at one of the Mount Timpanogos trailheads the next Saturday. I had been wanting to hike that trail my whole adult life, so I decided to use her and her family to be able to finally make that hike.

I didn't think our relationship had any chance because of the age difference, yet I was using her to get the opportunity to hike the trail. I actually felt pretty guilty about it, but not guilty enough to back out of the date.

I went to her house and picked her up early in the morning. How early? Well, it was before sunrise, and according to the research I just did on the interwebs, sunrise was at 6:22 AM that morning. (I'm pretty sure I had never picked up a date before 6:30 in the morning before.)

We drove up the canyon, past Robert Redford's Sundance ski area, to the Aspen Grove trailhead parking lot. (We did not see Robert Redford on our hike.) We put on our backpacks and started up the Mount Timpanogos trail as the sun came over the mountain.

An actual picture taken by me on our second date! 

Now, I am generally a quiet and shy person. I usually don't talk a whole lot. So, before the hike The-Not-Yet-Wife had been told by our mutual friend Terri that, "He won't talk much. You might want to think of things to talk about, because you'll really have to work hard to get him to say anything," or something along those lines.

And, at that point, I had done a fair bit of hiking, and I usually did it alone. So, I was quite used to it being quiet as I hiked along the mountain trails of Utah.

But, something funny happened that day. I actually talked. Without prodding. And she listened. And talked back. She even laughed at many of the appropriate times to things that I said. And, she made me laugh with some of the things that she said.

As we hiked up the mountain, past all the scenic waterfalls and through all of the beautiful wild flowers, we actually discovered that we enjoyed each other's company! This date, which I had thought of as just an excuse to hike the mountain, was turning into one of the most enjoyable dates I had ever been on in my 40+ years!

We made it up to the base of the summit, at Emerald Lake, and stopped to eat our lunch. It had been a long and arduous hike to that point, and it had taken a bit longer than we had anticipated. (I am, after all, Slow Joe.) So, we mutually decided against attempting to reach the top of the mountain that day. We felt that, in order to make it back before nightfall to the Timpooneke trailhead, where her dad was working, we had better skip the summit and start heading in that direction.

Wild flowers along the trail.
The hike down the mountain took about as long as the hike up the mountain. Amazingly, the conversation still flowed. By the time we got back down, I was thinking that, despite the age difference, this relationship might actually have a chance.

And then, I met her family. (It's not often you meet The Family on the second date.)

We made it to the Timpooneke trailhead, where her dad was manning the ranger shed and working the radio. I met him, and he seemed pleasant enough. We walked on a few feet more, where The-Not-Yet-Wife's mother was cooking up a meal in a dutch oven at the fire pit. She, also, seemed pleasant. One of The-Not-Yet-Wife's sisters was there, too. She did not seem pleasant. She was having a bad day and was stomping around and trying to light random things on fire. Thankfully, I was not one of the things she tried to light on fire.

By this time, I had hiked more than 12 miles on rugged mountain trails. I was exhausted. Also, I was pretty much talked out. I had already talked more during the hike than I would generally speak during any three-week period, so when it came time to meet The-Not-Yet-Wife's family, what they basically saw was a sweaty, stinky, creepy old guy who seemed to be mute and just wanted to lie down and sleep. And yet, they accepted me, took me in, and fed me. (It makes me wonder how scary her previous boyfriends had been if they found me to be okay.)

As we were eating our wonderful dutch oven chicken cordon bleu casserole, her dad got some action on the radio. It seems a moose was loose on the trail, scaring some of the hikers. I was thankful that we made it down the trail before the moose got loose.

Eventually we loaded up in her family's van and drove back down to where my car was at the other trailhead. When it was over, the date had lasted for more than 16 hours. It went from before sunrise until after sunset. It was like a marathon date. (In fact, I could have finished an actual marathon twice with several hours left over in the time it took to complete this date.)

And yet, it was the most important date of my life. Because, when it was over, I had a feeling it was just beginning.

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